Much on the line for play­ers on bub­ble

A po­si­tion-by-po­si­tion look at the ros­ter ahead of last pre­sea­son game, fi­nal cut

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jeff Zre­biec

Most of the Ravens starters will be on the side­line tonight, an an­ti­cli­mac­tic re­turn to the Mercedes-Benz Su­per­dome, where the or­ga­ni­za­tion cel­e­brated its sec­ond Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onship in Fe­bru­ary 2013, as well as a reg­u­lar-sea­son win in 2014.

Play­ers such as quar­ter­back Joe Flacco, wide re­ceiver Steve Smith Sr., rush line­backer Ter­rell Suggs and cor­ner­back Jimmy Smith have turned their at­ten­tion to the reg­u­larsea­son opener Sept. 11 against the Buf­falo Bills. They are un­likely to be in uni­form as the Ravens (3-0) close out t he pre­sea­son against the win­less New Or­leans Saints.

For the play­ers bat­tling for a hand­ful of jobs at the back end of the Ravens ros­ter, there is plenty at stake. NFL teams must cut their ros­ters from 75 play­ers to 53 by Satur­day af­ter­noon, mean­ing tonight’s game is a fi­nal op­por­tu­nity to make an im­pres­sion on the Ravens or other teams that will scour the waiver wire in the days ahead look­ing for po­ten­tial fits.

“We have some good choices and some tough choices, and that’s a good prob­lem to have,” coach John Har­baugh said.

Sev­eral mem­bers of the Ravens’ 11-man draft class, in­clud­ing de­fen­sive end Wil­lie Henry, wide re­ceiver Keenan Reynolds and cor­ner­back Mau­rice Canady, have to se­cure ros­ter spots. Veter­ans such as of­fen­sive guard Vladimir Du­casse and line­backer Chris Carter are hop­ing to prove they’re wor­thy of mak­ing the fi­nal 53. Pre­sea­son fi­nale Tonight, 8 TV: Chs. 11, 7, Com­cast Sport­sNet Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Many ros­ter de­ci­sions have al­ready been made after a month of train­ing camp prac­tices and three pre­sea­son games. In­juries, though, could af­fect the ros­ter, and the Ravens still have a few un­set­tled spots, in­clud­ing along the of­fen­sive line, at in­side line­backer and in the sec­ondary.

“A lot of de­ci­sions have been made,” Har­baugh said. “And then there are a num­ber of de­ci­sions that still have to be made. We talk about those ev­ery day. Ev­ery sec­ond of ev­ery day we think about it and try to do the right thing for our team.”

Here is a po­si­tion-by-po­si­tion look at where the ros­ter stands: Quar­ter­backs How many they’ll keep: 2 Mak­ing the cut: Flacco, Ryan Mal­lett Miss­ing out: Josh John­son Skinny: Har­baugh said after the sec­ond pre­sea­son game that Mal­lett and John­son were bat­tling for the re­serve job, but in­di­ca­tions are Mal­lett will be the lone backup. Mal­lett fits the of­fense bet­ter and has more re­cent start­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Run­ning backs How many they’ll keep: 5 Mak­ing the cut: Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Ken­neth Dixon, Ter­rance West, Kyle Juszczyk (full­back) Miss­ing out: Stephen Houston, Lorenzo Tali­a­ferro (phys­i­cally-un­able-to-per­form list) Skinny: Keep­ing five backs squeezes the team at another po­si­tion, but would the Ravens walk away from a re­spected vet­eran in Forsett, or a 2015 fourth-round pick in Allen? West, who has been among their more im­pres­sive play­ers this sum­mer, ap­pears safe. Dixon is side­lined for the next cou­ple of weeks be­cause of a torn MCL. Wide re­ceivers How many they’ll keep: 7 Mak­ing the cut: Steve Smith Sr., Ka­mar Aiken, Mike Wal­lace, Bre­shad Per­ri­man, Michael Cam­pa­naro, Chris Moore, Jeremy But­ler Miss­ing out: Reynolds Skinny: Seven wide re­ceivers seems ex­ces- Chris Matthews, Keenan sive, but Cam­pa­naro is the team’s best op­tion at punt re­turner and But­ler has been the most con­sis­tent pass catcher all sum­mer. Reynolds, the for­mer Navy quar­ter­back, has come on in prac­tice in re­cent weeks, but he’s strug­gled as a re­turner and been out­played by the other re­ceivers. Tight ends How many they’ll keep: 3 Mak­ing the cut: Crock­ett Gill­more, Maxx Wil­liams, Den­nis Pitta Miss­ing out: Ben­jamin Wat­son (in­jured re­serve), Nick Boyle (re­serve-sus­pended list), Dar­ren Waller (re­serve-sus­pended list), Daniel Brown Skinny: Pitta played in just seven games over the past three sea­sons and missed most of the sum­mer with a bro­ken fin­ger. With Wat­son out for the sea­son after tear­ing an Achilles ten­don, the Ravens need Pitta to pro­duce. Brown could sneak onto the ros­ter if the team doesn’t think Pitta or Wil­liams will be ready for Week1. Of­fen­sive line­men How many they’ll keep: 8 Mak­ing the cut: LT Ron­nie Stan­ley, LG John Urschel, CJeremy Zut­tah, RGMar­shal Yanda, RT Rick Wag­ner, C-G Ryan Jensen, G-TAlex Lewis, OTDe’On­dre Wes­ley Miss­ing out: T Blaine Clausell, G Vladimir Du­casse, T James Hurst, C Matt Skura Skinny: In a per­fect world, the Ravens would keep nine of­fen­sive line­men. How­ever, the ver­sa­til­ity of Lewis, who is the top re­serve at tackle and guard, and Jensen, who can play cen­ter and guard, should al­low the team to carry eight. There is a bat­tle for that pre­sumed fi­nal spot among Wes­ley, Du­casse and Hurst. De­fen­sive line­men How many they’ll keep: 6 Mak­ing the cut: Bran­don Wil­liams, Timmy Jerni­gan, Lawrence Guy, Brent Ur­ban, Carl Davis, Wil­lie Henry Miss­ing out: Bron­son Kau­fusi (in­jured re­serve), Kapron Lewis-Moore, Michael Pierce Skinny: Ur­ban, Davis and Henry haven’t dis­tin­guished them­selves this sum­mer, but they are all prob­a­bly safe given the team’s in­vest­ment in them. Lewis-Moore has had a The ver­sa­til­ity of Alex Lewis, left, the top re­serve at tackle and guard, and Ryan Jensen (66), who can play cen­ter and guard, make them good fits for the Ravens. Matt Skura could miss the cut. solid sum­mer, but there might not be room for the team to keep seven de­fen­sive line­men. Pierce should land on the prac­tice squad if he’s not claimed on waivers. Out­side lineback­ers How many they’ll keep: 5 Mak­ing the cut: Ter­rell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Al­bert McClel­lan, Za’Dar­ius Smith, Matthew Judon Miss­ing out: Bren­nen Beyer, Chris Carter, Vic­tor Ochi Skinny: Har­baugh said Smith’s sprained an­kle isn’t se­ri­ous, so the Ravens should be able to get by with five out­side lineback­ers. Rookie Ka­malei Cor­rea fig­ures to play on the out­side, too. Carter still has a shot to make the team be­cause of his spe­cial teams play. Ochi is a raw but in­trigu­ing pass rusher. The Ravens would do well to sneak him onto the prac­tice squad. In­side lineback­ers How many they’ll keep: 4 Mak­ing the cut: C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Ka­malei Cor­rea, An­thony Levine Sr. Miss­ing out: Arthur Brown, Pa­trick On­wua­sor Skinny: Keep­ing only four in­side lineback­ers is risky, but McClel­lan can move in­side in a pinch. If Brown, a 2013 sec­ond-round pick, makes the ros­ter, it would be be­cause of spe­cial teams. Levine’s abil­ity to play mul­ti­ple po­si­tions and ex­cel on spe­cial teams makes him an as­set. On­wua­sor is prob­a­bly headed to the prac­tice squad. Cor­ner­backs How many they’ll keep: 6 Mak­ing the cut: Jimmy Smith, Sha­reece Wright, Jer­raud Pow­ers, Tavon Young, Will Davis, Mau­rice Canady Miss­ing out: Kyle Ar­ring­ton (in­jured re­serve), Car­ring­ton Byn­dom, Shel­don Price Skinny: Pow­ers is the fa­vorite to win the nickel back job, although he’s strug­gled this pre­sea­son and has been side­lined lately by an undis­closed in­jury. Canady’s pre­sea­son has been marred by in­juries. Davis has proved he’s healthy and should be on the ros­ter. It might come down to a com­pe­ti­tion be­tween Price and Canady for one spot. Safeties How many they’ll keep: 4 Mak­ing the cut: Eric Wed­dle, Lar­dar­ius Webb, Ken­drick Lewis, Ter­rence Brooks Miss­ing out: Matt Elam (in­jured re­serve), Ju­lian Wil­son Skinny: Elam’s knee in­jury cleared a log­jam and made an eas­ier path for Brooks to the ros­ter. There are ques­tions whether Lewis, who has missed a lot of time this pre­sea­son, is a lock, but the Ravens view him as a valu­able backup. Levine can play safety if the need arises. Wil­son should land on the prac­tice squad. Spe­cial­ists How many they’ll keep: 3 Mak­ing the cut: K Justin Tucker, P Sam Koch, LS Mor­gan Cox Skinny: For the fifth straight year the Ravens will be­gin the sea­son with Tucker, Koch and Cox, among the league’s best. NAVY AT A GLANCE Coach: Ken Ni­u­mat­alolo, ninth sea­son (68-37) 2015 record: 11-2, Mil­i­tary Bowl cham­pion Ex­pected fin­ish: Sec­ond in West Di­vi­sion of Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence 2016 SCHED­ULE Date Op­po­nent, Time, TV Sept. 3 Ford­ham, noon, CBSSN Sept. 10 UConn, 3:30 p.m., CBSSN Sept. 17 at Tu­lane, 7 p.m., ESPN3 Oct. 1 at Air Force, 3:30 p.m., CBSSN Houston, 3 p.m., CBSSN at East Carolina, 7:30 p.m., ESPN Mem­phis, 3:30 p.m., CBSSN at South Florida, 7 p.m., ESPN2 Notre Dame-x, 11:30 a.m., chs. 13, 9 Tulsa, noon, CBSSN at SMU, TBA, TBA AAC champ., noon, TBA Army-y, 3 p.m., chs. 13, 9 Oct. 8 Oct. 13 Oct. 22 Oct. 28 Nov. 5 Nov. 12 Nov. 26 Dec. 3 Dec. 10

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BALTIMORE SUN

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